Tuesday, 27 September 2016

More fun-packed cheesy snack-based packaging copy. 
Rush out and grab a bag today!

Monday, 26 September 2016

A nice change from writing B2B websites

Fame at last! I wrote some spoof news stories recently for packaging for a new Burton's Fish 'n' Chips flavour - Chicken 'n' chips, and they're now on the shelves at your local supermarket. Nice change from writing websites for printed circuit board manufacturers and various 'solution providers', and pretty tasty too. Buy a bag and read them today folks.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

You might think it doesn’t matter.
I think it does.

There’s a lot of matter in the universe at the moment. Not the dark matter that’s apparently all around us bulking up the universe - but nobody can see it.

But matter. Or more specifically, things that matter.

I first noticed it when I saw the newest strapline from Legal & General:

It’s usually shortened to ‘Everyday Matters’. Clever wordplay huh? But it’s one of those completely pointless and meaningless propositions that not only doesn’t say anything about financial services, it doesn’t say anything about anything. 

So I saw it and forgot about it. Until I saw this strapline soon after: 

Now that’s pretty careless. It would take literally moments for the team at Lloyds Bank’s ad agency to see what other straplines were out there, and then think of one that wasn’t almost exactly the same as somebody else’s.

Worse still, it’s not even remotely true. Lloyds Bank are saying they will be there for the moments in your life that matter.

What, like when your children are born? When that girl you fancy agrees to go on a date with you? When you get the all-clear after cancer treatment? When you get down to your target weight after months of dieting and exercise? When you get that job after being out of work for ages?

No, I didn’t think so. And you know what, we wouldn’t want you there.

Never mind. So I forgot about these similar straplines until another one popped up. Now this really is becoming slightly unsettling: 

The first thing to be said is that it’s almost a direct copy of the Lloyds Bank strapline. So the Aviva ad agency team deserve an even bigger bollocking for being careless and/or lazy.

The things started to get very, very weird. Soon after, in the space of half an hour one Friday evening a couple of weeks ago, I spotted two more straplines.

On TV, I saw a Green Flag ad in the rolling news style. Quite a nice commercial until you get to the strapline:

In this case, the promise does actually have some relevance. Because when you’re stuck on the side of the A938 near Aviemore in the middle of Scotland and it’s cold, dark and pouring down with rain, you want to know that your recovery service will get to you. No matter what.

But the line is only half good. Sadly, it has no warmth, personality or connection to the reader. It might be better as:

Green Flag
We’ll get there, no matter what


Green Flag
We’ll get to you no matter what

Then moments later I nipped to our local Morrisons and saw an in-store poster:

That’s when I came over all Twilight Zone and felt like I was trapped in a weird copywriter’s Groundhog Day.

Why are all these straplines nearly the same? Has anyone else noticed? What happened to all the other words? Have I got to use ‘matters’ in every single strapline or piece of copy now? What does it all mean?

Thinking about the companies in question, I started to ask myself more questions.

Why are they so concerned with things that matter? Why do they presume to know what matters to us and imagine that they can give it to us? Why are they all trying to be so soft and fluffy, caring and sharing?

I think for the three financial services companies, the answer is simple.

They know deep down that we don’t like them any more. In fact, not only do we not like them, we actively dislike them and wouldn’t trust them as far as we could throw them.

Who can blame us?

What with RBS, HBOS, Fred Goodwin, the Libor scandal, the Barclays rate-fixing scandal, PPI and now the Co-operative Bank going up in smoke (literally) there’s not a great deal to like or trust.

They seem to think that with a comfy old strapline and a few soft focus images of groovy families, we’ll all be brought back into the fold.

Wouldn’t it be better if these various financial services companies just concentrated on offering a range of good products, providing friendly personal service, being accessible, and generally not trying to make as much money out of us as possible?

Now to most people, that’s what matters.

So, do you think this rash of cloned straplines is a reflection of the current corporate mindset in big business?

A sign that big ad agencies really have lost the plot?

Or just a massive coincidence?

Friday, 10 May 2013

Bizarre email of the week

There I was, diligently working away back in February 2011 when an email popped into my Inbox.

It was from Andy Murray.

And the subject line was:


I was intrigued, so I opened it up.

Here’s what happened next.

My initial reply was a genuine attempt to be helpful. But looking back now, I suppose it might have seemed high-handed and condescending.

Anyway, see what you think....

From: Andy Murray [mailto:andrewmurrayXX@yahoo.com]
Sent: 26 February 2011 11:04

At nearly 56 years of age I am at a stage where what I want to do when I grow up is becoming more of an issue.  Roughly translated, that means that I am looking for work, and I am e-mailing you in the off-chance that you "sub-contract".  I garnered your details from a search on Google, and I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I live in southern Scotland but, post-globalisation, you could live in Greenland , or Pluto, were it habitable, and still be able to submit excellent copy.  I was a freelance journalist for 16 years, during which I wrote news features and travel articles for most of the dailies, and for magazines and other outlets.  My work appeared in everything from Scotland on Sunday to those weekly colour magazines on various areas of Scotland that the former Maxwell camp used to bring out. I "shifted" for The Sun, the Record, The Herald and the Sunday Mail.   I wrote press releases for Gates Rubber Company, The Cheese Company, Dumfries and Galloway Enterprise and Dumfries and Galloway Tourist Board.  I also had two books published (nothing that Spielberg would have been bothered about).  I have a huge portfolio of cuttings I could show you.

In 2004 I began my training to be a psychiatric nurse, completed the degree course, and have been nursing since then.  It was a bad move. My heart is in writing and I think I made a mistake in giving it all up when the going got tougher and tougher, and as cheques were left unsigned in the offices of newspaper accountants.

I have studied web writing in-depth; and I am itching to add that to my offline prowess. If you have any work available I would be delighted to hear from you.  Believe you me, FAST though I undoubtedly am,  I would not be expensive to hire.

Andy Murray (not the tennis player).

 My initial reply:

From: Jamie Hudson <jamie@jamiehudson.com>
To: Andy Murray <
Sent: Mon, 28 February, 2011 15:44:09

Hi Andy,

Thanks for your email.

Unfortunately, I don’t usually put work out and if I ever do, it goes to the chap who lives two days away and is a freelance copywriter too.

A word of advice. Starting off your email with;

At nearly 56 years of age I am at a stage where what I want to do when I grow up is becoming more of an issue. 

…is an incredibly bad opening.

Readers don’t care about your age, stage of life or the issues you face.

We want to know what you can do for us. What benefits are you offering me? How can you make my life easier? Why should I give you work?

You need fewer ‘I’s and more ‘You’s’.

There are three ‘I’s in your opening sentence alone….

For more on better sales writing, read my blog, ‘Seven easy ways to improve your writing’ in my blog archive.

Best of luck.


P.S. Send some cuttings as attachments in PDF or JPeg form and show readers you can write.

From: Andy Murray <mailto:andrewmurrayXX@yahoo.com>
To: Jamie Hudson <
Sent: Mon, 28 February, 2011 15:58:01
You are entitled to your opinion.  However, I have been inundated with very encouraging comments from fellow-PR professionals, and have more than enough work now on the strength of an e-mail which was almost universally praised for its capacity to get a great message across. Some of the reactions I have had have been astonishing.  One PR name, who earns a very lucrative living, admitted (with humility you will manifestly never have supposing you lived a dozen lifetimes) that she could not let me loose on any of her clients because they would switch to me.  Reasons?  My submission was "terrifically well written". You obviously do not possess enough humour to grasp the concept of my e-mail; or are too far along the autistic spectrum to see the merits dozens of very successful professionals have.  Perhaps, in the words of a man whose views I admire, you are "too far up your own arse".

Thank you for your advice that I read your blog, but I do not require any lectures from someone as patronising as he is self-important.

From: Andy Murray
Sent: 28 February 2011 16:03
To: Jamie Hudson

P.S. I have just had a wee look at your blog. If that is cutting-edge material, then God help us all. Oh, and you have the gall to criticise me for using the personal possessive pronoun.  You have more "I"s than a needle cushion.  I am laughing fit to excrete.

From: Jamie Hudson <jamie@jamiehudson.com>
To: Andy Murray <
Sent: Mon, 28 February, 2011 16:25:58

Andy, that’s priceless. You’ve absolutely made my day.

You’ve also given me loads of material for my next blog which will feature you.

All the best.

Jamie x

From: Andy Murray
Sent: 28 February 2011 16:33
To: Jamie Hudson

Feature me in any way you wish, you numpty.  Your arrogance defies belief. Mind you, I did not expect the kind of person who composes the kind of  mind-numbing blog  I skimmed over to be big enough to see how often he uses the words "me" and "I".  Incidentally, in your e-mail, there ought to be a comma between "blog" and "which". Practise what you preach.  I am too seasoned to be fooled by blowhards.

At this stage, it all got a bit school playground, so I left it at that.

I suppose the moral of the story is, and as they used to say on ‘Hill Street Blues’, be careful out there...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Cracking campaign of the week

It's one of the oldest advertising techniques in the book, but it still works like stink.

It’s demonstration. Or in this case, reverse demonstration.

Take a look at these three ads for Colgate dental floss. Click on the images and blow them up big.

What do you notice?

That’s right. The horrible bits of food stuck to the teeth of the three guys.

So Colgate are carrying out a demonstration. But in reverse. They’re not showing what happens when you use their product.

They’re showing what happens when you don’t.

You get bits of your lunch embedded in your gnashers.

And that’s the only thing people will see when they look at you.

Don’t believe me?

Take a look at the ads again.

Did you see the lady’s six fingers in the first ad?

Or the floating third hand in the second ad?

Or the fact that the guy in the last ad was missing a right ear?

It’s a great idea. And it leaves you thinking what a brilliant ad. What a brilliant product.

And where can I buy some?

Because no one wants to have teeth that look like that.

But, as I said, it’s one of the oldest techniques in the book.

See what I mean.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Crap copy of the week


Some cars are built to look good, others are designed for performance. XXXXXs are designed to do both. When it comes to driving pleasure, you’ll find this in our DNA. Every bolt, every nut, every decision has been made to deliver the ultimate experience. It’s not just what XXXXXs are made of, it’s what they’re made from. It’s built from passion, belief and determination to deliver the XXXXX. It’s the only thing we won’t be moved on. Find out more at XXXXXX or visit your local dealer to experience it for yourself.

Remember when car ads had loads of great copy that told you everything about the car and really moved you to book a test drive? Or they had an absolute killer headline that had exactly the same effect, and just a phone number so you could book that test drive?

Well this ad has neither.

Now I know it’s all about short copy and nobody reads long copy any more. But surely the trend isn’t towards terrible short copy.

Take the headline. (I wish you would.)

This car is DESIGNED TO MOVE. Well that’s quite handy when you need to get the kids to school. Or when your boss would like you to come in and perform a few little taskettes.

So let’s move on to the body copy. Or, as I’d like to call it, a stream of non-sequiturs which have been thrown together in no particular order.

Take the first two sentences. This car is designed to look good. OK, a bit basic and hardly the stuff to stir your soul, stiffen your sinews and make you book that test drive. But it’s also designed to ‘do’ performance. Say what?

When it comes to driving pleasure, you’ll find this in our DNA.

This sentence bears no relation to the proceeding one, and if it did, shouldn’t it be ‘these’ and not ‘this’?

It’s not just what XXXXXs are made of, it’s what they’re made from.

Aren’t these the same thing?

This is followed straight away with, It’s built from…’ Shouldn’t this be ‘They’re built with…’

We also have two uses of ‘deliver’ in three sentences. Not only repetition which is plain bad writing, but ‘deliver’ is one of those ubiquitous verbs which is used everywhere by lazy writers – which is why it’s ubiquitous. ‘Access’ is another.

Deliver is what lorries and vans do. And social services these days. Not cars.

Above all, the ad has no specifics. How was it made? Is anything new? What are the innovations? How does it perform? What are the gadgets? How big’s the boot? What’s the upholstery? What’s the MPG? Why does it look good? Most important of all, how do your passion, belief and determination infuse your whole design, development and manufacturing process? See. They’re specifics.

So what’s the car which has been barely touched in on this copy? Stand up and take the applause BMW. But you probably already guessed that.

Now, I’m not just moaning for the sake of moaning. These are great cars and they deserve great advertising. Or at least, advertising from people who know how to do it.

Like this:

Or this:

As I said at the start, you can either go this way. Or have a killer headline and just a call to action. 
Like this:

 Or this:

Or even this:

But not like this:

I must apologise here. The ad is a DPS but I couldn’t fit the other half on my scanner. It’s just a load of whoosh lines, so this is actually the better half.

Monday, 26 March 2012

What are The Two Things about the business you work in?

I came across a fascinating website the other day. It’s called The Two Things and it’s a kind of discussion board where anyone can post The Two Things.

So what are they? Here’s the story.

Economist and academic Glen Whitman walked into the Lava Lounge bar in LA in 2002. He soon got talking to another guy in the bar.

The man asked him, “So, what are The Two Things about economics?"

"Huh?" Whitman replied slightly baffled.

"You know, The Two Things. For every subject, there are only two things you need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just isn’t that important."

Whitman thought then replied: "One: incentives matter. Two: there's no such thing as a free lunch."

"Ever since that evening," Whitman wrote later, "I've been playing The Two Things game. Whenever I meet someone who belongs to a different profession or knows something about a subject I'm unfamiliar with, I pose The Two Things question."

When he blogged about it, hundreds of people added their own Two Things covering all areas of human endeavour. You can read them on his website here:


Whitman likes The Two Things exercise so much because it forces people to cut through the flannel, verbiage and irrelevant minutiae in any industry and get back to basics.

In short, it can serve as a useful reminder of what’s important in your job. And what’s just peripheral.

So, contributions to Whitman’s site and some of my favourites include The Two Things about:

Stock trading – ‘Buy low’ and ‘Sell high’

The theatre – ‘Don't forget your lines’ and ‘Don't bump into the set’

Project Management – ‘The schedule will slip’ and ‘It's about how you manage the schedule slippage’

Driving a car – ‘Don't hit anything’ and ‘Don't let anything hit you’

Flying an aeroplane – ‘Airspeed is life’ and ‘Think ahead’

Women – ‘When complaining, they don’t want your advice, they want your sympathy’ and ‘Don’t you dare tell them you can sum them up with just Two Things’

Parenting – ‘There's no such thing as too much affection’ and ‘It's not so much what you say, it’s what you do’

Star Trek – ‘Don't beam down if you’re wearing a red tunic’ and ‘You can always talk evil computers into destroying themselves’

Being a house husband – ‘That can wait until tomorrow’ and ‘That can too’

So what would your Two Things about marketing be? Two suggestions from Whitman’s site are:

1. Know your existing customers
2. Recruit more customers

Or even:

1. Find out who is buying your product
2. Find more buyers like them

So what would your suggestion be for marketing, social media, copywriting, the internet or absolutely anything at all?